You see, the people of the underworld, no matter how rotten or illegitimate their method of living was, all felt for some reason they were justified in their practices and professions.
The Bucket's Got H*** In It.
Tom Anderson was the king of the white tenderloin; Bob Rowe was king of the Negro tenderloin. For about fifteen years (1900 to 1915), he was the Red Light District's most highly respected ladies man. Here's the story of Bob Rowe, his woman Ready Money, and their clever departure from New Orleans.
Bob was a tall man, about six feet, sort of slim and raw-boned, considered tall, brown and handsome. As young man he was asked and begged to become the pimp of an old wise streetwalker by the name, Warmbody Stell.
She hustled and supported Bob for quite a few years. Stell was a hop head and a consumptive. Eventually, Bob took up with another fast woman named Ready Money, because Warmbody Stell had become a problem and a nuisance. She went to jail with a sentence of three months.
Bob heard her many pleas to get her out but he ignored them all and let her die in the Parish Prison. Bob rarely smiled or joked. He was, as the underworld would say, cold-blooded and heartless.
He was the unofficial czar of the District and everybody respected him as such. He was loved and supported by Ready Money, who eventually became the District's most famous Negro madame during that period.
Ready Money was a small woman, real light colored. She had big blue eyes and yellow hair and could easily have, "jumped the fence," that is, passed for white. She came to New Orleans from the Cajun country.
After hustling most of the big named brothels, she opened her own. She lived up to her name because it was the custom of the smart boys when losing at games of chance to call or send a stooge to their women and get them to send more gambling money.
The Big Twenty Five, a gambling house and bar was the headquarters and clearing house of most of the action in the District. On occasions when Mr. Rowe's luck at the gambling table deserted him he would call or send a message. "Go tell Ready Money send me some fresh cash," which never failed to arrive.
Another one of the regulars at the Big Twenty Five was Mr. Barrel of Fun. His name was appropriate because he was forever telling jokes, the life of any party. Barrel of Fun loved New Orleans and was considered one of the District's most popular sports with a dollar. Barrel of Fun was a noted horse trainer, and worked for Colonel E.R. Bradly, who owned one of America's largest stables "The Greentree" and breeding farms.
New Orleans was one of the first cities in the United States to have big time racing and Negroes played a big part as trainers, grooms, jockeys and track attendants. There were quite a few Negroes who owned and raced horses; Bob Rowe had a stable of six. Barrel of Fun and Bob Rowe were very good friends and it was he who arranged for Bob to buy horses, which he trained, other than his main job working for Bradly. Mr. Rowe's horses rarely ran in the money but he kept his small stable mainly for the notoriety he received as being a racehorse owner in the city and having his name listed in the scratch sheet of New Orleans newspapers.
After the racng season, the horses at the track were shipped to other tracks to race but Mr. Rowe's horses remained in New Orleans for the rest of the year until the season started again, which meant that Mr. Rowe had to feed and shelter the nags while they remained idle. Around the joints and gambling houses Mr. Rowe patiently boasted (when the season closed) “Wait till next year. I'll show them!”
Mr. Barrel of Fun had returned from a racing season in California and he told Bob of California's sunshine, gold and beauty. He also explained how the fresh, light California air would help his health, because at times when it rained and the cold heavy damp air settled over the city, Bob Rowe had difficulty breathing normally, a symptom of the dreaded consumption.
So Mr. Rowe made plans to take his horses to California. He, Barrel of Fun, and his woman Ready Money, sat down and mapped out a plan of strategy whereby they could ship the horses to California and have a nice sum of money to tide them over until Ready Money could get her connections in California and open up her a first class meat market.
The police in New Orleans were making it tough for the madames and their girls to make a dollar (that is, a peaceful one.) So they spread the news and called a meeting of all the big shots in the District, the pimps, madames, whores, gamblers, hustlers, bartenders and all the owners of joints. These people believed in Bob Rowe and Ready Money because in the past their counsel was always wise.
They gave a cocktail party at Pete Lala's, which was the District's number one cabaret, on a Sunday evening. Joe Oliver's band played and everyone of importance attended dressed in their finest regailia.
Improvisation.wav Mr. Medard Straighten Up & Fly Right
Mr. Barker has a question for you:
In this next excerpt, Old Danny seems to be putting on a... puppet show for the youth in his view.
Winin' Boy Blues
“...so you can feel the vibrations.”
Act Three: Fire... hot! The Second Line. The Scuffles.
The Sex. The Success. The Salvation. The Sainthood.
St. James Infirmary Blues
It is no surprise that Danny Barker was not a church-going Bible thumper. He read many books throughout his 85 years.
However, after his return to New Orleans in 1965 - “after the signs came down” as he put it, Danny became a member and was baptized at the Fairview Baptist Church in the Gentilly neighborhood; where he, and wife 'Blu' Lu Barker, had settled into a house at 1277 Sere Street.
Daughter, Sylvia Barker has told the story of the day Danny got dunked.
“He said that he was sitting in the pews in the long-johns they gave him to wear, waiting to be baptized.” Apparently Danny had his doubts, as Sylvia relates.
“My father wasn't sure that he was doing the right thing but when he got up, he turned to the back of the church, and saw his grandparents in a vision, and they assured him that he was on the right path.”
It is from the Fairview Baptist Church that Danny Barker attained one last great legacy.
Danny was asked by the Pastor to form a youth band and teach music to some of the neighborhood kids. Mr. Barker took hold of the possibilities of creating a new generation of Jazz men.
Some 35 years later, several of Danny's boys are world re-known musicians; now representing an idea that is all the more critical since the events of August 29th, 2005.
Their names: Leroy Jones, Greg Stafford, Michael White, Herlin Riley, Lucien Barbarin, 'Big Al' Carson, Shannon Powell, Gregory Davis, Harry Stallings and the late, great Anthony 'Tuba Fats' Lacien.
Danny Barker will live forever... satisfied.